During a conversation at last week's New England VMUG, an IT guy mentioned that his company had given iPads to all the executives. I asked him how the execs liked the iPads, and he said most of them had given the devices back to the company.
"Really?" I replied. "How come?"
"They don't replace PCs," he said.
This story surprised me. This person doesn't work for some small, backwards-thinking company that doesn't get technology. He works for a company you've all heard of. Shouldn't everyone there be in love with the iPad?
I kept that story in the back of my mind for the rest of the day at the New England VMware User Group (VMUG) meeting, down in lovely Newport, R.I. My reporter's mind started going: "If I can find two more people who say the same thing, I'll have a TREND! Then I can write a news story with an explosive headline like ‘iPad: Not the business tool it's cracked up to be' and get tons of page views!"
That didn't happen. For the most part, everyone I talked to said the iPad (and iPhone and Android devices) is getting more popular among their users, and finding ways to manage, secure and take advantage of these devices is taking up more of IT's time.
Today, that got me thinking: What went wrong with the pilot the VMUG attendee told me about?
For starters, the execs clearly didn't have the right expectations. Maybe they've heard the term "post-PC era" one too many times. The iPad is supposed to supplement the PC in some cases and do things the PC can't do in other cases, but it's not supposed to replace the PC.
Another reason is, maybe IT didn't have the right expectations either. Maybe the company didn't modernize its IT to empower its users. The iPad has this reputation as a magical, life-changing device, but if all you do is configure it to send and receive email, your users are going to say, "Huh? That's it?"
The iPad can be a powerful business tool. The key words there are "can be." It's cool to carry around and easy to use, and some iPad business apps are really handy, but the value stops there if IT doesn't integrate it with existing systems.